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McLaren taking iRacing seriously?

NEWS STORY
22/05/2020

Either Lando Norris has been keeping himself very, very busy during the pandemic or has employed the services of a first-rate publicist.

Fact is, the Bristol-born youngster features in almost every F1-related news article (such as they are) published in recent weeks, as the sport moves further and further into the age of social media and online gaming.

Indeed, it's fair to say that courtesy of their online sim-racing presence some drivers are making more of an impact and allowing their personalities to shine through than would ever be the case whilst doing 'the real thing'.

Barely a day seems to pass when Norris isn't racing something, somewhere, his exploits, though leaving the vast majority of purists cold, winning over a vast army of potential new fans.

Of course, Norris isn't alone for most days fellow F1 drivers like Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, George Russell and Alex Albon can be found racing somewhere, as celebrities and sportsmen line up against them in various disciplines.

Like Verstappen, Norris has shunned the official F1 game, the Briton having experienced a number of issues when the virtual season got underway.

At the inaugural event the youngster was sidelined when the programme crashed, experiencing a similar problem in the follow-up event while he was streaming on Twitch.tv to more than 100,000 followers in a charity fundraiser. The last straw was when, having posted a good time in qualifying, he was subsequently "booted out" before completing a single lap.

As a result, Norris has been using iRacing, the subscription-based racing simulation which encompasses all manner of disciplines and uses various race tracks.

However, other than allowing the youngster to enjoy some adrenalin-pumping fun while waiting for the F1 season to get the green light, and convert more online followers into fans of the real thing, his exploits have caused McLaren to take notice.

Because of the ubiquitous licencing deal with Codemasters in terms of the F1 game, Formula One is not one of the racing disciplines covered by iRacing, but IndyCar is, and as McLaren prepares to make its return to the series next month, Zak Brown admits that Norris' adventures have been useful.

"It is getting close to photo-realism," the American tells the Independent. "I think iRacing, from my understanding, is the most technically sophisticated eSports series and I have actually seen some notes from our engineers who want to develop some genuine testing set ups on it.

"I think it's very close," he adds. "I think that simulators kind of are remote testing facilities now."

Indeed, with an eye on the impending budget cap, Brown believes that the likes of iRacing could in time allow the teams to do away with, or at least become less reliant on their simulators. Furthermore further development of the likes of iRacing will make the experience even more lifelike for its users

"As technology evolves with all the software that goes into our simulator, if that is developed for the masses you will have a kick-ass eSports platform and I don't think it's a million miles away," says Brown.

During the pandemic, it is the younger drivers who have been centre stage in the world of sim-racing and their on-track exploits, their running commentaries, incidents and various other issues provide a much-needed feelgood factor at what is a difficult time.

Indeed, Norris' exploits will have gone down well with a number of McLaren's partners, several of whom have close ties to the gaming industry including peripheral manufacturer Logitech, PC brand Alienware and wearable technology firm Huami.

"Sport is a great healer in a time of crisis and tragedy," says Brown. "As viewer habits have changed, one thing that has not is the appetite for live sport.

"So I think that whether it is motorsport or football, the fans will come right back. I don't think they have gone anywhere. I think TV ratings and digital will be really strong. How many re-runs can you watch?"

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by GordonG47, 23/05/2020 3:31

""How many re-runs can you watch?"

This.

None."

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